Suppose like me, you've been religiously going to the cinema every week for the past six months (or even just once). In that case, you've no doubt been treated to a glimpse of Tom Cruise speeding through the streets of Rome, fighting atop a runaway train and leaping from a motorbike that he has just driven off a cliff. In today's spoiler-paranoid culture, things like this might be the worst thing for a film-goer but when it comes to the Mission: Impossible franchise the thing that's going to get people through the doors is seeing how one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood literally takes himself to the edge, only to get back up and carry on with a smile that reminds you this is what the movies are all about.
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is the seventh entry in the long-running blockbuster franchise and once again follows Cruise as secret agent Ethan Hunt, leader of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), a secret task force that's called in to do the jobs no one else can. When a new AI threat known as "The Entity" becomes self-aware and infiltrates every intelligence agency on the planet, Hunt and the team race against the US government and The Entity's followers to acquire the key that could either destroy or control it. Like the last few instalments, the team is filled out with longtime techy companions Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames); deadly former MI6 agent Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson); and one new addition in professional thief, Grace (Hayley Atwell). Filling out the ensemble cast are Gabriel (Esai Morales), a killer working for The Entity with a personal connection to Hunt; Alanna Mistopolis (Vanessa Kirby), a black-market arms dealer; Paris (Pom Klementieff), an assassin who works for Gabriel; and Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), the director of the IMF and CIA who last appeared all the way back in the first film over 25 years ago.
With an expansive cast and an equally expansive runtime (2 hours and 43 minutes to be exact), you might expect there to be some elements of bloat or some feeling of that length but I am very happy to report that Dead Reckoning is one of the fastest films I have seen in some time. The film moves from thrilling setpiece to thrilling setpiece with such speed that you truly feel the urgency to stop this newest threat. Much like the previous films this is a globe-trotting feast for the eyes that starts with a shootout in the Arabian Desert and swiftly moves to the Abu Dhabi Airport for a tense cat-and-mouse game. After this, it's all guns blazing with the aforementioned car chase in Rome, a glamourous party fight in Venice, and then finally an extended train sequence that is truly edge of your seat, can't take your eyes off the screen entertainment. In between is Cruise's leap off the cliff which happens in silence to grab the attention of the audience and never let go. By the time the credits started rolling, I felt I had only been in the screening for half the time and if that isn't the sign of a great film, I don't know what is.
As an aside, much has been said about how timely having an AI villain in this film is what with the rise of ChatGPT and the current Hollywood Writer's Strike against the implementation of AI in the screenwriting process. Of course, Dead Reckoning isn't the first film to feature AI as an "evil" presence but right now the idea that an AI could work itself into anywhere on the planet and potentially start another World War is extremely prescient and becoming scarier by the moment. The tension that is created by this villain, as it proves to be everywhere, all the time, is certainly engaging and when thinking of it ending up in the questionable hands of the US you can't help but want Hunt and crew to succeed that little bit more.
As the title says though, this is part one of a story which is slated to be concluded in 12 months' time and so the question arises, does this film work on its own like this year's Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Dos Santos, Powers and Thompson) or does it feel like half a story like Dune (Villeneuve, 2021)? Thankfully, it is the former as even though Dead Reckoning does end on a cliffhanger, there is still a clear ending point that feels natural and has you leaving the cinema thinking, "How the hell are they going to pull that off?" With Tom Cruise, that's how.